In this month's editorial, Trish Wylie returns to talk about the importance of reaching out to help, support and embrace fellow writers in our Romancelandia family.
We all need a little help sometimes.
It might be with work, at home or when you find yourself stranded at the side of the road with a flat tire. It might be when you need to take a step back from something to relieve your stress levels and need someone to pick up the slack or when you're not certain if you're over-reacting and need someone to talk you off the ledge before your meltdown is immortalized in cyberspace.
We live in a world filled with those kinds of things every day. Some of them small, cumulative stressors and some great, big catastrophes we can see coming but do nothing to avoid. And while having a support network of friends, family and workmates can provide the help you need, when you need it, people can still be oblivious to what is going on, particularly if you are someone who tends to put on a brave face and tries to battle their way through their problems alone instead of confessing 'I'm struggling over here'.
But asking for help isn't easy.
That's the trouble. In fact, a great many of the people I know tend to wade in snarling and growling and muttering beneath their breath, determined to go it alone because A/ They don't trust anyone else to do it. B/ They feel it's their responsibility so they have to do it. C/ They believe doing it saves time rather than waiting endlessly for someone else to step up. D/ They believe they can do it better than anyone else, so what's the point in asking when they'll have to fix it after it's supposedly been done? or E/ They are sick to death of trying to explain/justify why they need help when no-one seems to be listening.
Any of those examples sound familiar to you or is it just me? Because yeah, I've used all of those at one time or another and all it did, eight times out of ten, was make me feel like a martyr to the cause. No-one ever thanked me for busting my ass. An 'oh good, you got it done' or a figurative tap on the back with a 'well done, you' was the full extent of my reward. The latter simply meant they would expect the same result next time. No-one felt bad if I got sick cos I worked too hard and ran myself into the ground. They were more likely to be pissed off I couldn't work for a while or because I got all needy for things like meds and tissues and chicken soup and a little goddamn sympathy 'cos is that so much to ask for?! No-one, as the saying goes, would notice what I'd done until I stopped doing it. Most likely because we tend to focus on what's missing in our lives, rather than appreciating what's already there.
It's a trust issue.
And that's another problem. This time of the rock-and-a-hard-place variety. If you ask for help and get some but it's such a half-assed effort/complete cock-up you still have to dive in and DIY, you're less likely to ask for help the next time. But if you don't ask, the people who could help (and would do a bloody good job of it) won't know you need them. What's more, they won't understand why you're suddenly snippy with them for not helping when you felt like they should. Cos seriously, how could they not know?!
That's why communication is so important.
By stating clearly and concisely what the problem is and explaining what you need, you open the door and allow someone to step in and at least try to help. Risky? Yes, particularly if you've been disappointed or hurt before. Scary? That, too. And for the same reasons. There's also the small matter of the cynicism, which tends to set in when you've opened the door several times and never had a good result. But if you don't take that step...
Reading and writing romance should teach us that. We hate when fictional characters don't do it. Particularly if they do it over and over again without learning anything.
Listening is equally important.
That trust thing is a two way street. So, if someone reaches out to you for help and you ignore it or half-heartedly help or don't really see what the problem is or - and this is the absolute worst - try to explain why they don't really need help...Wild guess here. But I'm gonna say the next time you find the courage to say you need help, it might not be forthcoming from that quarter.
It's a mile in someone else's shoes scenario.
Think of all the times in your life you struggled or needed help. Think of the worst times in your life, the days you consider dark. How much darker could they have been if no-one reached out to help, even when it was obvious you were in need?
The point to this lecture? Well, you see, I've always considered Romancelandia one of the most supportive places on the planet. As a newbie author, I received the warmest welcome I'd ever experienced and was overwhelmed by the generosity of people I'd never met. They shared their experience, their wisdom, their thoughts and their skill with me. They gave up precious time to talk to me and listened to what I had to say so I felt valued. It wasn't a utopia. There are always a few sour old apples in every barrel. But my first visit to RWA Nationals made Romancelandia, and the solidarity I experienced there, feel like I'd finally found a place where my work - and the heart and soul I put into it - was both respected and appreciated. I found a family there. One that was on my side and had my back, no matter what. So, knowing there are authors out there who don't feel that way. Kills. Me.
You are NOT alone.
I've said this so many times in the last few years. About battling depression. About writers block. About trying to get a foot back onto the writing career ladder. About trying to eke a living from the thing we love doing while we recover from what real life has done and is still doing to us. I've even rhymed it off to other people when I felt completely isolated and started to believe no-one would miss me if I was gone.
A grain of optimism that things could get better kept me going. And I still cling to the pervading hope we read and write about in romance novels for that very reason. So, when I talk about reaching out for help and reaching out to help, I do it from that perspective. I consider LGBTQ+, AoC and all the gloriously diverse romance authors out there, siblings in my Romancelandia family. If they reach out to me for help or I see they need help and I can do anything to help them, I will. Right up to the day I take my last breath. Because that's what you do for family.
Trish has a re-released story out later this month as part of a 3-in-1 book with Andrea Bolter and Jessica Gilmore. You can pre-order One Summer In New York right now. To find out more about Trish simply follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or visit TrishWylie.com.
Do you have difficulty reaching out for help? Have you found help and support in Romancelandia or do you still think there's a lot of work to be done there? Let us know in the comments or join the @pinkhearter #ReachOut discussion on Social Media.